What's the used Vauxhall Viva hatchback like?
Although Vauxhall’s fortunes have fluctuated over the years, the brand still has a place in people’s affections in the UK. For many years, the firm’s most popular cars have earned regular places in the best-seller list, especially the practical Astra hatchback and Insignia executive mile-muncher, and many are those who have learned to drive in a humble Corsa.
With the launch of the Viva in 2015, Vauxhall entered the city car class, taking the fight directly to such strong tiny-tot competitors as the Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and Suzuki Celerio. Its name revives memories of the firm’s popular small saloon of the 1960s, and the new version comes with cheeky styling and room for five.
The only engine on offer under its compact bonnet is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit, and it does without the turbocharger that is de rigueur on most small engines of its type these days. However, this helps keep the car light, with the Viva tipping the scales at just 950kg – this should promise reasonable performance and efficiency.
Trim levels are kept simple – SE, SE Nav and SL. Entry-level models come with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, heated wing mirrors and cruise control. Upgrade to SL and you will find 15in alloy wheels, a leather-clad steering wheel, climate control and Vauxhall’s OnStar concierge system complete with a wi-fi hotspot. SE Nav adds sat-nav and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system to everything you get with SE trim. It also adds all-important air conditioning.
In addition, there’s a Rocks model that brings a light off-road-style makeover and a ride height that's 18mm higher for a more 'SUV' look.
On the road, the Viva’s engine is very smooth and delivers its power progressively, so it's perfectly acceptable around town. Get onto faster roads, though, and you’ll need to change down a couple of gears and rev it hard if you want even a moderate burst of acceleration. In terms of top speed and acceleration, its figures, while unimpressive on paper, actually match those of most of its main rivals. The car comes with a five-speed manual gearbox that's nice to use, with a pleasingly smooth action. However, unlike many of its rivals, there's no automatic option, so you'll need to look elsewhere if that's a deal breaker.
The Viva rides rough roads pretty well, too, with a soft and supple touch over town irregularities. It’s not the most spirited of cars to drive overall, unsurprisingly, but it handles tidily and grips well, despite a lot of body lean in bends taken quickly. Its steering is a bit vague, too, so this won’t inspire keener drivers, but it’s at least light and easy to use around town.
Despite being short and quite tall, the Viva is fairly refined on motorways, with not much in the way of wind noise to disturb things and the engine note is fairly subdued. The only blot is a fair dollop of road noise, but this is much the same for its rivals.
Inside is a solid-feeling but rather straightforward interior that lacks a little sparkle and can also feel a bit cheap in places. The driver's seat is adjustable in height, while the steering wheel is adjustable in height but, alas, not in reach. All the dials and controls are logically placed and easy to read.
Space wise, there’s plenty of room up front and access to the rear is good, thanks to the five-door layout. Rear space is a little limited, however, especially for those six foot or above, and the boot is one of the smallest in this class. Safety could also be better, because the Viva scored just three stars out of five when tested by Euro NCAP.